Alexandria, Virginia—A large display of Christmas lights has been brightening up a street corner in an Alexandria neighborhood for over 35 years. Every holiday season Alexandria resident and local businessman George Barbari can be counted on to turn his corner lot into a Winter Wonderland.
Barbari was visiting the mall with his wife Nancy over three decades ago and noticed the many children with their mothers eagerly waiting for a visit with Santa Claus. At that time there was a charge for the opportunity for them to sit on Santa’s lap and share their Christmas wishes. It was difficult for the couple to accept that some children would not be able to have a moment with Santa simply because they lack ability to pay.
He shared with his wife the idea he had and began setting his plan in motion. He would transform his yard into a Winter Wonderland and invite Santa to join him. With the help of family and friends, Santa would be available to any child that stopped by free of charge. They put their plan in motion and the 35-year tradition began.
Putting this light presentation together takes many hours and many helping hands. He starts the process the week before Thanksgiving with the help of many friends and family members. He tests all of the lights individually and makes sure everything is in proper order before the decorating begins. The Christmas collection includes what he refers to as “old school” bulbs and lighting and some lawn ornaments he has had for over 25 years. His lights and yard decorations started out small and have since grown into a vast Christmas production that he shares with Alexandria and surrounding communities every holiday season.
Everyone is encouraged to come in through the gated entrance and see the display that takes up every inch of their big front yard. Upon entering the gate, the most noticeable display is the word JOY spelled in colorful bright lights on the rooftop. The vintage choir angels line the sidewalk right beside the most recent addition, the giant reindeer pulling the present filled sleigh with Santa.
To the right of the sidewalk are two displays that hold a special meaning to Barbari. They honor those in the military that are actively serving our country. The other displays honor the many veterans and fallen soldiers who dedicated their lives serving America. He is grateful and proud, as he came to this country over 50 years ago and was able to become successful and live his version of the American dream.
Just behind the Veterans display is the popular real working mini-train. The children are eager to ride the train that runs around the small track. The train was made possible by the keen eye of Nancy who spotted it in a shopping center carnival over 25 years ago. The carnival manager would not agree to sell her the mini train, but she left her contact information in case he had a change of heart. After all, it was for the purpose of bringing joy to the children. It wasn’t too long after when they received a call that he was willing to sell them the train set, and the rest is Christmas joy history!
There is a spot reserved on the porch for Santa where he will sit as neighborhood children take turns whispering their Christmas morning wishes. Santa will be at Barbaris home from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM on December 23rd and December 24th. Barbari made sure that Santa was there for every Christmas and has since given this responsibility to his son.
Over the years Barbari has seen many people pass through his front yard gate to enjoy his lights. As he explains it, he has seen ‘older people come to tears at the sight of his veteran’s memorial and some of the yard ornaments that remind them of their own.”
The Christmas lights stay until the new year begins and then begins the huge undertaking of taking down the decorations and lights piece by piece. This only takes a couple of days but the process of wrapping them individually to protect them from breakage takes the most time. They are put away in a storage unit and are safely kept until the next holiday season.
This holiday tradition lights up the street every year. Even more impressive than the light show itself is the meaning behind this very personal Christmas project, from his appreciation to this country and its military; the desire to make Christmas special to everyone, especially children and the special bond it provides for his own family.
When Geoge and Nancy Barbari aren’t decorating for Christmas, Georges Restaurant Equipment is where they are most days. His business has been serving Virginia, Maryland, and DC for over 43 years.
Anyone wishing to see Barbaris Christmas Wonderland can see the display at 6634 South Kings Highway in Alexandria.
When Christmas is not around the corner, George and Nancy Barbari operate their successful, George’s Restaurant Equipment serving Virginia, Maryland and DC area for over 43 years.